Some teratogenic properties of ethanol and acetaldehyde in C57BL/6J mice: implications for the study of the fetal alcohol syndrome.

Research paper by W S WS Webster, D A DA Walsh, S E SE McEwen, A H AH Lipson

Indexed on: 01 Apr '83Published on: 01 Apr '83Published in: Teratology


To investigate the teratogenic effect of acute alcohol exposure, pregnant C57BL/6J mice were exposed to 25% ethanol (either two doses of 2.9g/kg or one dose 5.8g/kg) during the organogenic period either by intraperitoneal injections or by intubation. The incidence of malformations varied according to (1) the stage of embryonic development at the time of exposure, (2) the route of administration of the alcohol, and (3) the amount of alcohol given and the time period over which it was administered. Oral doses of alcohol were teratogenic although less so than the same dose given intraperitoneally, and two intraperitoneal doses four hours apart produced significantly more malformation than the same two doses six hours apart. The primary metabolite of alcohol, acetaldehyde, was also investigated for its teratogenicity. It was found that one or two doses of four percent acetaldehyde (0.32g/kg), administered intraperitoneally were teratogenic. A further attempt was made to raise blood acetaldehyde levels by exposing mice to disulfiram, an inhibitor of acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, prior to administration of alcohol. The disulfiram pretreatment did not increase the malformation rate. Treatment with alcohol on day 7 or 8 caused a variety of facial abnormalities, some of which were comparable to those seen in children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Exposure on day 9 or 10 resulted in limb defects. The results suggest that one or more episodes of heavy maternal drinking at critical periods in pregnancy may severely damage the embryo and may produce many features of the fetal alcohol syndrome.